Guten Morgen! As you can tell, I am from Germany. I work as a First Purser onboard and oversee the smooth running of the Reception Desk along with the senior Receptionist.
Some of my other duties include dealing with cabin changes for guests, guest complaints which need my intervention, credit card charge reporting, end of cruise revenue reports and the clearance of the ship. I have to deal with a cashflow of 80,000 U.S Dollars and I report to the Chief Purser.
In each port of call, we need to do a clearance with the local authorities. This is a very similar process to an individual travelling to a foreign country. You need to have a valid passport, maybe fill out a landing form, need to declare to customs what you are bringing into the country etc.
For a ship, it is no different, just that the volume is a little bigger. We need to submit the passenger and crew details (names, passport numbers, nationalities, date of birth, etc), fill out landing forms for everyone (if required by the country being visited) , provide an inventory of food, beverages (mainly alcoholic) and fuel onboard on arrival. In addition there are some certificates which a cruise ship must have, and in most ports the authorities check on that and the validity of the certificates.
Most customs and immigration officials require the passengers and crew information to be sent in advance, so they can check each person prior to arrival. All other documents, and if required all passports of everyone, are presented when the officials board the ship when we arrive in the port. These are the first people, together with the port agent, to board the ship, and unless they are satisfied with all documentation, the ship is not clear. Until clearance is received for the ship, nobody is allowed to enter or leave the ship. (Except for the pilot, who came onboard at the entrance of the port and he can leave as soon as the ship is docked)
Besides presenting documents to the officials, in many countries is also a social visit once they come onboard, and so it is expected, that the ship provides coffee and tea and pastries during the time of the clearance. Besides the paperwork I have to send out and prepare in advance every day, I need to liaise with the Food & Beverage department to ensure a smooth and fast clearance.
Each port has their own requirements, and some of them are easy to deal with, others will take half a day, at least to enjoy the food provided.
Besides the clearance, I am also the primary contact to the port agent, who will assist us with anything we might need – such as doctor visits for crew and passengers, items to purchase, such as food/beverage/technical, as well as arranging for the purchase of fresh water, fuel, garbage removal and the likes.
In 2 weeks we will start our repositioning cruise, passing by India, and I better start preparing the paperwork as much as possible. To get all the papers ready, I think I need a paper mill for the amount of forms to fill out.
Anja Schmidt, Germany